Board to Death (2015)

UK / 17 minutes / bw / Broken Lens Dir: Dammie Akinmola Pr: Alex Matthews Scr & Cine: Kazi Zaman Story: “Death by Scrabble” (2006 eastoftheweb.com) by Charlie Fish Cast: Joshua Expósito, Victoria Ashford, Cristinel Hogas, Carl Muircroft, Christopher Walthorne, Latifah Parara, Luke Waller, Zee Filho.

Board to Death - 0 opener

An obsessively jealous husband, Caine (Expósito), is playing a word-based board game—not Scrabble, and not really anything like it except for the manufacture of the tiles—with his wife (Ashford), whom he believes to be a serial adulteress. As play progresses, she spells out names with the tiles—names that Caine believes to be those of the men who have “disrespected” her. Some of those men he can identify, and so between plays and without any discernable passage of time at the game table, he

  • goes to a nightclub called Board to Death and murders the bartender and self-professed ladies’ man, Nicholson (Hogas);
  • invades the home of Marshall (Muircroft), a man who owes him money, ties up Marshall’s wife (Parara) and then gives Marshall the choice of committing suicide or having his wife murdered in front of him (Marshall chooses Option A);
  • and finally, only slightly disconcerted to find that the name Caine’s wife started spelling onto the board was “Mark” and not “Marshall,” Caine attends a church service run by Father Sven (Walthorne) and then afterwards blows him away in the confessional.

Board to Death - 1 Nicholson boasts of his sexual prowess

Nicholson (Cristinel Hogas) boasts of his sexual prowess.

Board to Death - 2 Caine spells out harsh truths (and falsehoods) to Marshall

Caine spells out harsh truths (and falsehoods) to Marshall (Carl Muircroft).

Board to Death - 4 Father Sven believes he's just going to hear Caine's confession

Father Sven (Christopher Walthorne) believes he’s just going to hear Caine’s confession.

There’s more—but not much more—to the plot, including a rather predictable denouement, but the movie’s interest, aside from some splendid noirish cinematography, lies primarily in the enigmatic nature of what is actually happening. Is Caine merely imagining his atrocities—are they just vicious fantasies born from his demented jealousy? Or are his acts of murder the true story and the session at the board game a piece of symbolism? It’s a question this short movie doesn’t answer; it’s this lack of an answer that makes Board to Death stick in the mind. Another unanswered question is, of course, whether the wife has actually been unfaithful, or if it’s just Caine’s paranoia speaking.

Board to Death - 3 Is the wife really a femme fatale

But is Caine’s wife (Victoria Ashford) really such a femme fatale?

The performances are better than we often find in indie shorts. Muircroft and especially Hogas are fine—the latter really does capture perfectly the manner of a womanizing sleazebag, bragging of his latest conquest. Ashford doesn’t have a huge amount to do. Expósito and to a lesser extent Walthorne, however, are guilty of a certain degree of overacting—which may, of course, be precisely what they were directed to deliver. I did have a little difficulty deciphering some of Expósito’s thickly accented dialogue.

Father Sven delivers a reading from the Epistle of James that seems to have been intriguingly subverted. We have, for example, “Blessed is he who persists in temptation” for the line more usually rendered as something like “Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation”—i.e., who perseveres despite temptation.

The original story upon which Board to Death is (very) loosely based can be found here. It’s quite short and well worth a read. The movie’s website is here and there’s a trailer here. Board to Death will be on the festival circuit soonish if not already, and will be released onto YouTube at the start of 2016.

Board to Death - 5 closer

Comeuppance time for Caine (Joshua Expósito).

=====

Note: I was given a viewing copy by the folk at Broken Lens. I’m always open to such approaches, although it can take quite a while (hello there, Pablo!) before an entry appears.

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7 thoughts on “Board to Death (2015)

  1. speaking of Scrabble… The deluxe version, which is so great and orderly, would be so much better if it used magnetic tiles and a wand to help pick up the pieces. Otherwise, cleanup is so tedious! There’s your non-sequitor for the day.

    • You’re quite right: I’ve rarely met a sequitur so non. I haven’t played Scrabble in decades, I fear, although my wife plays a version of it online with a pal.

      As a not quite so nonnish sequitur (okay, so only just) I discovered a couple of weeks ago that the Grauniad posts its daily cryptic crossword online . . . and not just that, but has a massive archive available for the, er, crosswordophile. Having not attempted a UK cryptic crossword since early 1999, when I moved to the US (I used to do them daily), I assumed I’d have no chance. To my astonishment, although I don’t have the old facility, I can still in general solve them.

      I’ve not yet had the guts to try to tackle an Observer AZED though. Those used to take me most of Sunday, surrounded by dictionaries, even when I was in practice. Now, um . . .

  2. I like the sound of this too, so I hope it gets a slot at the London Film Fest later this year. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for it. I’m a sucker for this type of monochrome cinematography – there’s something gloriously retro about it. Speaking of which, have you seen the A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (a fairly recent release)? If not, it’s worth a look…shades of early Jim Jarmusch.

  3. Thanks for dropping by, Jacqui! Fingers crossed you get the chance to see the piece!

    Speaking of which, have you seen the A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

    Yes. I did like the cinematography — I too am a sucker for bw cinematography (as if you hadn’t guessed!) — but I confess I was underimpressed by the rest of it. For me, it was as if the director had assembled lots of really good scenes and story elements but somehow failed to make an actual narrative out of these ingredients. I kept waiting for the story to start.

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